A high-stakes election in Thailand
Thai voters are going to the polls on Sunday in an election that could set the country on a path toward ending eight years of military rule.
The vote will pit pro-democracy opposition parties against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the general who seized power in a coup in 2014. Most opinion polls show Paetongtarn Shinawatra, whose father, Thaksin, was ousted in a separate coup in 2006, as the current front-runner for prime minister.
To understand the wide range of issues at play, we reached out to Sui-Lee Wee, our Southeast Asia bureau chief.
What will you be watching for on Sunday?
This election is very consequential. We are probably going to see a repudiation of the military at the polls. Although Thais are used to the army intervening in domestic politics, they have never been under authoritarian rule for as long as this current term, which is eight years. Many voters are now looking for change, and opinion polls show that they are backing opposition parties that are promising a shift back toward democracy.
The vote could also pave the way for the return of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister who was ousted in a coup. No politician is more divisive in Thailand than Thaksin, and a victory for his party could set the stage for weeks or months of tensions and political paralysis. Ultimately, this election is going to be a test of whether the military, which has long regarded Thaksin as its nemesis, will respect the people’s will.
What could it mean for the royal family?
Depending on which party dominates, it could open the room for discussion on the future of the monarchy. Political parties are debating whether a strict law that criminalizes criticism of the monarchy should be amended or expanded.
If the military-backed parties lose, the future could look less secure for the monarchy. The army has always been seen as the guardians of the institution, and without it at the helm of government the country’s conservatives could be nervous.
Will the election have an impact in the region?
If an opposition party wins, it would hopefully mean that Thailand could revive its once vibrant democracy. But if history serves as any guide, the military is unlikely to relinquish power easily. It is hard to predict now whether the country can definitely emerge out of the cycle of coups and short-lived civilian governments.
Pakistan’s top court ordered Khan released
Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared that the arrest of Imran Khan, the former prime minister, was unlawful, and ordered his release from custody. The ruling was a victory for Khan, whose arrest had led to protests by his supporters across the country.
The court decision is likely to escalate tensions, setting up a direct clash between the Supreme Court and Pakistan’s military, which is widely considered to be the driving force behind Khan’s arrest during a court hearing this week in Islamabad.
Context: The court said that security forces had to obtain permission before carrying out an arrest on court premises. Khan could be rearrested under different circumstances.
How China is remaking its chip business
Seven months after the U.S. cut China’s access to the Western technology and skilled workers it needed to build the most advanced semiconductors, China has accelerated its plans for an independent chip sector.
Chinese companies are building up local supply chains, drawing billions in cash from Beijing and investors to cultivate homegrown alternatives.
Related: Taiwan is running low on engineers, a shortage that could have effects beyond the its world-dominating microchip sector.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
What song represents your home?
Music can transport us, emotionally and physically. For instance, Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” always reminds me of childhood drives.
Communities around the world have anthems and songs that evoke the emotion of the place and its people. We’d like to compile a playlist for our readers, with the songs that make you think of your home.
What’s the quintessential Bangkok song? What’s the sound of Mumbai to you? What do you blast when you miss Japan, or when your plane is landing in Shanghai after a long time away? Tell us about it. We may add your song to our playlist and share your thoughts with readers in a future edition of this newsletter. — Amelia